Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5, Episode 9, ‘What Happened and What’s Going On’: It Went The Way It Had To

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credit Amc/Gene Page

Whose Episode Is It?

Early on you think the episode will be about Noah, seeing that it’s his gated community in Richmond that Team Rick is headed for, but then things take a turn and Tyreese takes center stage.

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

Achievement In Artiness

The cold open is a seemingly-unrelated jumble of images that build to blood dripping on a picture of a house. It’s off-putting and ominous, not unlike the single-shot opening of Season 4’s “The Grove” — which is appropriate considering Lizzie and Mika are part of the mix. Unfortunately, these images are cycled through several more times as the episode progresses, with increasingly diminishing returns. Sure, we get context for a lot of them, but how many shots of that skeleton do we really need to drive the point home? (The episode’s position: as many skeleton shots as necessary to fill the hour.)

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

Achievement in Grossness

We zip right through the episode’s set-up: Noah was from a gated community in Richmond and he thinks his family is still surviving there, so Team Rick (in this case, Rick, Tyreese, Michonne, Noah and Glen) are the point team to investigate. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the place has been overrun. Turns out Noah had two little brothers who were twins. This being “The Walking Dead,” you can probably figure out how that played out. Hint: one ate the other and left his hollowed-out corpse on the bed.

Hallucinatory Guest Stars to the Rescue!

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credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

Noah’s other little brother turns out to be quite the little overachiever, as he manages to get the drop on Tyreese and bite him on the arm. Noah runs for help, leaving Tyreese to hallucinate his old nemesis Martin along with most every significant cast member to have died in the last two seasons. (All except Hershel, that is. I guess he and Tyreese weren’t that close.) Bob is there, along with Lizzie and Mika, as well as Beth and even The Governor.

What follows is a sort of philosophical debate on the state of Tyreese’s soul, and whether he should give up or keep fighting. Can a man like Tyreese survive in this new world? Or should he give up, if, as Martin suggests, his desire to show mercy leads to others dying? This is all sort of interesting on paper, but the hallucinations turn out to be pretty repetitive (if you missed any of their lines, then just wait a few minutes, because they’ll say them again), and the number of guest stars seem less like a narrative necessity and more like a desire to get all the actors back for one more episode. Ultimately, this episode feels like 40 minutes worth of story stretched to an hour.

A Shred of Humanity

When they first find the neighborhood overrun, Tyreese gives Noah a pep talk about how if Tyreese had given up, he wouldn’t have been around to save baby Judith. Then again, Martin notes that the Termites wouldn’t have found Team Rick if Tyreese hadn’t left Martin alive, so there’s a give and a take.

It’s not an unfair question to ask why more characters on “The Walking Dead” don’t just commit suicide. Everyone lives in a horrible nightmare world where the threat of being eaten alive or worse is constantly overhead. What keeps them all going beyond a basic natural instinct for survival? Tyreese doesn’t seem the type for self-harm, but if given an opportunity to stop fighting, like, say, being bitten by two different zombies and having his arm cut off by his friends in a desperate attempt to save him? When the two little girls that died on his watch are telling him that he’ll be better off if he goes, then well…

This Week In Death

In the end, Tyreese gives in. The dialogue-free long shot of the van stopping and Rick and the others pulling Tyreese’s body into the street is a case of the episode’s artiness working in its favor. (Man, this show really has it in for “The Wire” alums this season. Watch your back, Seth Gilliam!) That’s two consecutive episodes with major character deaths. I know this show isn’t flowers and sunshine, but that’s grim even by its standards. Just how dark is this show willing to go, and will it not be arduous to watch as it goes there?

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

credit Amc/Gene Page

I Give the Episode and Performance a A now they have to live up to my expectations

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